“Lucky Star: superstar” at the (online) Exponential Festival
January 21, 2021
Featuring performance artists Anabella Lenzu (choreography/devised writer – episode 1); Daniel Diaz (choreography/devised writer – episode 2); Bree Breeden (choreography/devised writer episode 3); cameo appearance by downtown icon and Stonewall witness Agosto Machado (narrator & writer)
Cinematography: Jon Burklund
Direction & Writer: Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte
Production Design & Writer: Philip Treviño
Choreography Consultant: Beth Graczyk
Sound Design: Ryan William Downey
Episode 1 includes cinematography by Todd Carroll
The best— and by best I mean queerest— thing that film does for movement has to do with temporality. Film queers time. It’s not rocket science, and that’s the trick. Watch. The camera captures a disco ball, a pink shimmery curtain, two giant fans swirling in the hands of a beautiful Spanish matador. Then: the fabric suspends itself and hangs in impossible air, in glorious delay— red and black fans swish an infinite ellipse. You glimpse the gesture beginning, sustaining, finishing. Never finished; always finishing. On the horizon. Here’s where Pioneers Go East earns their quixotically queer name, I guess: proposing, through productions like Lucky Star: superstar, that we join them on a journey towards a near, queer futurity.
Lucky Star: superstar begins and ends with neon and narration. A figure clad in silver twirls two pink glowing ropes; a voice reports, implores, and questions. The disembodied narrator, none other than Agosto Machado, grounds us in queer time. Past, present, and future slide and groove together, slowing down and accelerating, forming mysterious loops of memory and aspiration.
Sharp cut to Anabella Lenzu in sunglasses and a blonde wig, pursing her burgundy lips. She is at once ballet mistress and unruly student, wildly describing herself as she performs ballet positions. ‘How can I be in control?’ separates her complex somatic experiences into categorical positions, breaking Lenzu’s body into parts—hands, head, torso, rotation of hips—and reassembling those parts into a breathing, laughing, human. Through monomaniacal repetition filmed at close range, Lenzu’s movements become a campy exorcism of technique and mastery. She resists ballet’s external control by controlling—and losing control of—herself, on her own terms.
The three solo sections around which Lucky Star: superstar is built share this autobiographical curiosity. The solos are conjurings, invocations, fairy tales. They are telenovela episodes or superhero origin stories. Cinematographer Jon Burklund lingers in close shots: we see breath, rhinestones, lines of sweat. The glimmering disco ball swings in the background like a pendulum as the space odyssey progresses.
Next up: ‘a beautiful Spanish matador,’ the legend of queer Latinx performance artist Daniel Diaz’s drag alter ego. In this guise, he is a fan-twirling macho babe, a glitter boi, a bedroom-eyed darling—the manifestation of otherworldly genderfluid fantasy. Diaz invites us into his dressing room. Seductive, coiffed, and bespangled, Diaz tells the matador’s history through movement and text. He cites lovers, friends, and Josephine Baker as early influences; he adjusts his costume, pats his curls. He describes formative experiences of desire and self-definition while vamping for the lens. This larger-than-life avatar caresses the air, spins, pouts. He could be preparing for a crowd or in front of a crowd already: every wink is intimate and thrillingly public.
The third element is a Reebok-wearing superhero, ‘the emerald shiny green pegasus.’ Bree Breeden oozes playful confidence in a silvery unitard, braids streaming behind her, eyebrows arched and sparkling. Breeden tells stories from her childhood using whimsical gestures, then admires herself in the disco ball beside her and calls on Missy Elliott’s empowering energy to propel her into the next movement. Breeden struts and lunges around the pink-tinged room, and her voiceover transforms into a remix, stuck on the word “jump.” Jump: a DJ’s hook, a mantra, a prayer beneath the disco ball; another word for queer horizon. We’re waiting for the jump. The jump is a promise. It’s in the future.
The film concludes with a joyful, dreamlike meditation on aliens, filmed in delicious slow-motion. Diaz and Breeden wear silver space suits and astronaut helmets with the visors open. They grin and shimmer and undulate their hips, posing. We know the aliens are actually here, in our midst, on our screens. A rocket ship takes off in the distance. Fade to black; cue pink neon. Closing the loop. Déjà vu. Machado’s voice filters in again, listing the catastrophes of 2020 and calling them ours, reminding us what we lived through together. While the glow ropes spin, Machado identifies the queer thing that is unfurling, in a new year, at a distance.
Lucky Star: superstar works like a time capsule. The film holds past, future, and present in an intimate, luscious spacetime loop. Fact and fiction, inseparable, blur and tease. Cut to disco ball, still swinging. Slow down and watch the air sparkle. Time swirls here, queerly, as fabulous histories and alien futurities shimmy together in a pleasing confusion.